With less than one week until Election Day, Ken Welch is holding onto a double-digit lead over Robert Blackmon in the St. Petersburg mayoral race.
In a St. Pete Polls survey taken Tuesday, Welch leads Blackmon with 55% support to Blackmon’s 39%. Only 6% of voters indicated they were either still unsure, or wouldn’t say who they supported.
Welch’s 16-point lead in the poll is a slight drop from a previous St. Pete Polls survey, taken in September, in which he led Blackmon by 17 points.
But it’s a difficult margin to overcome. The 6% of respondents who indicated they were undecided or refused to indicate their support are not enough to bridge the gap. Further, Democrats had the largest share of undecided voters, the political demographic for which Welch overwhelmingly leads with 78% support to Blackmon’s 15.5%.
And Black voters, a demographic for which Welch also enjoys overwhelming support, are 13% undecided. Among those who selected a preferred candidate, 75% said it was Welch, while only 12% support Blackmon.
The both polls taken after the August Primary Election show a possible over-performance for Welch, who finished the Primary 10 points ahead of Blackmon. And the increase makes sense.
Welch, shortly after the Primary, received an endorsement from City Council member Darden Rice, who finished third. That gives Welch access to the more than 9,000 voters who cast their ballot for Rice in the Primary. Neither Pete Boland nor Wengay Newton, candidates who also lost in the Primary Election, have endorsed a candidate, but they are the most likely to have voters willing to switch allegiance to Blackmon. But their cumulative share of the vote in August represented less than 8,000 votes.
Adding to that, St. Pete’s political makeup favors Welch. While the race is non-partisan — candidates’ political affiliations won’t appear on the ballot — Welch is a registered Democrat while Blackmon is a Republican.
Democrats represent the largest share of St. Pete voters. According to the most recent voter registration data available with the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office, with 88,055 registered Democrats and just 49,527 Republicans.
That means cross-over appeal is more important for Blackmon’s strategy than it is for Welch. Yet Welch is enjoying more cross-party support than his opponent. While fewer than 16% of Democrats support Blackmon, 20% of Republicans back Welch.
The same is true for racial demographics. Welch, who would be the city’s first Black Mayor if elected, enjoys nearly 50% support from White voters, while Blackmon, has just 12% support from Black voters.
Welch leads among both men and women, but enjoys a wider margin among female voters, with 56% support to Blackmon’s 38%. Among men, 54% support Welch while 41% support Blackmon.
The poll was taken among 524 likely St. Pete voters and has a 4.3% margin of error.
Turnout in the race as of Wednesday morning was at 15.5%. Among those who had already cast a mail ballot, more than 15,000 were Democrats, nearly 9,000 were Republicans and another nearly 5,000 had no party affiliation.
Election Day is Tuesday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. The winner will replace incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is leaving office due to term limits and has endorsed Welch as his successor.